City reduces fees for home, business developers


Shelton-Mason County Journal of Shelton, Washington

The Shelton City Commission on Monday voted 2-1 to reduce permit fees and charges for home and business developers.

Mayor Gary Cronce and Commissioner Kathy McDowell voted for the fee reductions the incentives will entice developers and promote growth.

Commissioner Tracy Moore voted against the measure and said current taxpayers could end up paying for the expanded infrastructure costs because of lost revenue.

The changes passed on Monday:

Reduce all plan review and building permits by 30 percent.

Eliminate all water and sewer application fees.

Eliminate the water connection charge, which is a deposit intended to cover the cost for city crews to construct a lateral from the water main to the city property line.

Reduce water and sewer general facility charges by 55 percent.

Reduce Traffic Impact Fees (TIF) by 55 percent.

Eliminate the sidewalk improvement charge.

The commission has been discussing the proposal for almost two months. Two weeks ago, the commission postponed its decision.

On Monday, Commissioner McDowell said the fee reductions will bring builders to town. The city will prosper in the long run, she said.

"Are we afraid to succeed?" McDowell asked.

Cronce said the fee reductions are "an opportunity to start and stimulate some growth." He urged people to "get over the fear that the world will tip over if we try to make it easier" to develop in town.

The mayor also suggested some people are opposing the fee reduction because of animosity toward himself and new Commissioner McDowell.

"People want failure from a new administration," he said.

Moore said she is concerned that the lost revenue means the city will have to take money out of the General Fund or the utilities fund, from taxes collected from current residents.

"If we don't collect the full impact of these fees, these fees have to be made up somehow," she said.

Moore said she is also disturbed by how the scope of the proposed fee reductions expanded and now include development outside the city limits. Despite requests by herself and others, no cost/benefit analysis on the fee reductions has been conducted, she said.

"I think it's the wrong time," Moore said of the fee reductions. "We have commercial projects rolling in."

Moore mentioned the Sierra Pacific Industries mill scheduled to be constructed on the Shelton waterfront, and a marijuana growing business in the former ITT Rayonier buildings across the street.

During the public hearing on the proposal, former Shelton Mayor John Tarrant said, "The issue should be growth paying for growth."

"This proposal is one-sided....It helps builders and Realtors more than the general public," he said.

Former Shelton County Commissioner Mike Olsen agreed.

"You're giving builders and Realtors a break.... It smacks of special interest groups running the city," he said.

Under the change, "You're now giving free services to county residents," Olsen said. With the lots built outside the city, the city will receive no property, sales, B&O or excise taxes, he said.

Joshua Deal, the government affairs director for Olympia Master Builders, said his organization supports the reduced fees as a way to entice developers. The issue seems to be a football for "other issues" Shelton is dealing with, he said.

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